Rotherham United have recently announced the signing of new manager Matt Taylor to finally replace former boss, Paul Warne. The reign of Warne for Rotherham lasted for five years and even though he led his side to three promotions to the Championship within that period, he failed to keep the club within the second tier for any longer than a season.
Rotherham had a good start to the season although the call of Derby County proved to be too good to turn down for the Englishman and his staff. The decision made by Warne had a mixed reception among Rotherham fans. Some argued that the choice to step down a tier from Rotherham may leave the club in a disillusioned state and struggle to get repromoted, whilst others believed that a fresh face may add something new and vibrant to the club.
Who is Matt Taylor?
Following a sixteen-year playing career in England, Matt Taylor burst onto the managerial scene at a relatively young age of just 40 by managing Exeter City. The former central defender became appointed to his former-captained side in 2018 as he took on Exeter as his first team in his coaching career. Taylor had a brilliant start to League Two and he had even been nominated for the League Two Manager of the Month award only a month into his tenure.
His first season in his new career ended in somewhat disappointment as Taylor admitted that his new side should have finished in a promotion-chancing spot. Exeter finished 9th and just one point away from a play-off position after the season and Taylor’s coaching abilities showed promise early on.
In Taylor’s second season at Exeter, he, once again, had another solid start to the League Two season and in the team’s opening six matches, Exeter won four and drew two – leading Taylor to win August’s League Two Manager of the Month for the second time in his career. The season was much stronger than the previous for Exeter and following a great run of form during the Christmas period, Exeter ended the year in 2nd on the table, with Taylor winning yet another Manager of the Month award. Their form dipped, however, towards the remainder of the season and subsequently finished 5th and whilst they did end the season in a playoff spot and made it to the final, Taylor’s side was humbled by Northampton Town in a 4-0 thrashing.
Progress was clearly being made within the club as they edged towards finally gaining promotion to League One for the first time since 2012. It wasn’t until the 2021/22 season for Exeter that saw their most successful campaign under Taylor and, quite possibly, the better part of the decade. There was, yet again, another successful start to the season as Exeter went unbeaten from their first five games and continued a consistent run of form that led to Taylor winning another Manager of the Month award for February. Exeter finished 2nd in the league and gained automatic promotion back into League One under Taylor. The Englishman also added yet another personal award to his resume by winning League Two’s manager of the year award.
As a result of Taylor’s work with Exeter, Rotherham United came calling and the Exeter boss was granted permission to speak with the Championship side to advance his way through the English football ladder and create a bigger name for himself within football management.
What is Matt Taylor’s recipe for success?
Under Matt Taylor, Exeter looked like a changed football club in their new style of play. It is fair to say that Taylor is not necessarily the type of manager that instantly delivers success and immediate change, but rather he can build and turn a club in the direction of exemplary squad-building.
Taylor’s tenure at Exeter was largely unique in that, given Exeter is a fan-owned club, the manager needed to deal with practically non-stop departures to preserve the sustainability of the football club and ensure its survival.
“It’s then up to myself as a manager to get the right balance for the squad. We’ve always got a good foundation of academy players, and over half of the first-team squad are made up of them, and often over half of the side on a matchday. It’s the perfect foundation for us to build on”
Despite what seemed to be the restless selling of players, Taylor was able to consistently rebuild the foundations of his team and utilise his core squad of players to enforce his football philosophy across the pitch. Since he arrived at Exeter, we have primarily seen Taylor use a 3-4-1-2 formation that can comfortably switch to a 3-5-2 formation off the ball. Taylor’s side tends to stretch the length of the pitch and focus play out wide with the wingbacks and, statistically, the side usually attempts one of the greatest numbers of crosses in the league. Taylor also places a big emphasis on the ability to be clinical with chances and, as simplistic as that may read, it is incredibly vital that every chance, including set-pieces, can be used to score as the side can sometimes be resistant to holding back and protecting a lead.
Matt Taylor and Rotherham United
Rotherham club chairman, Tony Stewart, made his reasoning for the hiring of Taylor clear in a recent interview: “We knew what type of style, what type of character we wanted. Matt fitted that description; young, athletic, his win ratio is very good. I interviewed Matt and after a couple of minutes you knew he was the man to come to Rotherham”
“Some big names were interested; some I would have taken seriously six years ago. But the stereotype of the guy we were looking for, Matt fitted into that role. Exeter had survived on a shoestring. At Rotherham we are a family, we are close-knit, we do work together, we laugh together, we cry together. Matt will fit into this habitat”
Rotherham will, undoubtedly, create the patient environment that Taylor thrives within and given his track record of growing teams on a professional basis, it seems unlikely to be a mismatching fit. On the pitch, Rotherham’s current style of play in a 3-1-4-2 formation is quite like his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation of Taylor. Rotherham’s current wingbacks, Cohen Bramall and Brooke Norton-Cuffy, will be vital to Taylor’s style of play that will involve the pair bombing forward within games to maintain possession and be the primary source of chance creation and retention within the team. Overall, the side has a solid foundation from which Taylor can work and develop. Furthermore, the side has far greater stability financially and Taylor will thrive in such an environment that allows him to properly plan his future team without the fear of losing key players within the side.
Currently, Rotherham sits 12th in the Championship table and their inconsistent placement of spiraling between relegation and promotion has led to the perfect opportunity for a manager like Taylor to come in and add a breath of fresh air to the side.